Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough said on Tuesday's show that "Donald Trump never thought he was going to win the presidency," and that's why his personal attorney emailed Vladimir Putin's spokesperson during the presidential campaign to discuss a potential Trump Tower in Moscow.
His analysis followed a cascade of new revelations showing that interactions between Trump, his team and Russia were more substantive than they have disclosed. On Monday, ABC News reported that Trump signed a letter of intent to develop Trump Tower Moscow four months into his presidential campaign. The Washington Post reported yesterday that Michael Cohen, then an executive with the Trump organization and now Trump's personal attorney in the Russia matter, sent the email to "longtime Putin lieutenant" Dmitry Peskov in January 2016. The project was never built.
"This was all a money-making scam. He thought Jeb Bush was going to beat him," Scarborough said. "He was going to take the money and run. 'So let me use the position I'm in right now and try to get that tower in Moscow.'"
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Contributor Mike Barnacle agreed that the campaign originally seemed like a "branding exercise."
Cohen has claimed that Trump never had personal contact with Russians on the Trump Tower Russia project, only him.
Scarborough wasn't buying it. "Did Donald Trump help Cohen draft that email on Air Force One?" he said, referring to the president's denial that he had anything to do with Donald Trump Jr.'s original false statement about meeting with Russians in Trump Tower.
NBC political analyst Mark Halperin expressed incredulity about the revelations. "As all the scrutiny has taken place over the last year about the relationship between the Trump world and Russia, these guys were sitting on this stuff. And we can reliably assume that this is not it. There's more coming."
"Trying to make a deal with Russia at that time and then acting like they had no business interests in Russia," he continued, "there's no doubt that not just Congressional investigators are interested in this but so is the independent counsel."